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Saturday, February 26, 2011

What are you looking at? A Commentary on Eye Contact in the Black Community

In most western cultures, eye contact is a social cue that a person is confident and sincere. For many in America someone looking them in the eye is often a sign that a person is honest and telling the truth. However many African-Americans in the inner-city don’t see this social cue the same way as the rest of the world.

African-Americans avoiding eye contact has a history that goes back to slavery. It was socially unacceptable for a slave to make eye contact with a white man in the Antebellum South. Many whites back then felt if a Negro “eyeballed him” it was a sign that they thought they were equal to a white man and had no respect for him. In Jim Crow America, making eye contact was a social crime that could lead to a black person being lynched. And during the Civil Rights period and afterward, a black person could be arrested just for looking a police officer in the eyes.

Today African-Americans still regard making eye contact with a negative connotation even when interacting with each other. On the streets in inner city neighborhoods making eye contact is often seen as a sign of aggression and hostility. Any eye contact with a stranger in the ghetto can easily turn into an argument, escalate into a fight and lead up to murder. So many African-Americans, out of fear for their saftety, keep their eyes down and look away when they communicate with other brothers and sisters in the neighborhood.

Some may see this behavior as a sign of deferment. But it’s a social skill many brothers and sisters must practice to survive in a predatory environment controlled by gangs, drug dealers, junkies, the mentally ill, and hardcore criminals who can become violent at any provocation.

Unfortunately when African-Americans, especially black males from the inner-city practice the social behaviors they’ve learned out of safety and survival in the in the White community those social cues are often misinterpreted. Many Whites who don’t understand the social culture of the inner-city often believe that a black person is being insincere or lying when they look away when this isn’t the case.

These misunderstandings about nonverbal social cues have prevented African-Americans from getting jobs or keeping jobs, networking effectively in school, or socializing outside of the black community. Moreover it has prevented brothers and sisters from succeeding in the world of work. While social cues like eye contact and smiling are considered normal in White society, they can get someone killed in the inner-city.

So the next time An African-American person isn’t making eye contact or smiling, please don’t take it personal. Many Blacks were raised to communicate with a different set of social cues and do not mean to offend. In the inner-city actions often speak louder than words about truth, honesty, and trust, and eyes don’t necessarily tell the whole story about a person.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Afrika Owes- From Prep School to Prison A tragic story I Know All Too Well

I was reading the paper this Sunday about Afrika Owes, a 17-year-old who was arrested as part of the 137th Street gang that peddled drugs and ran drugs in the shadow of Reverend Calvin Butts’ Abyssinian Baptist Church. The media is painting her as a victim who was led astray by the street. But I don’t see it that way. I feel Afrika is another unfortunate sista who made the choice to walk away from religion and education and "Keep it Real" by following  the false doctrines of “Thug Life” and is now paying the price for her actions.

Reading about Afrika Owes, she had the potential to be anything she wanted to be. She was a gifted Harlem girl who earned a scholarship to attend the prestigious Deerfield Academy a $43,000 a year private school in Massachusetts. She was a member of the Youth Ministry and Choir at Calvin Butts’ Abyssinian Baptist Church. A Student Leader in the Deerfield Black Student Coalition. A smart charismatic girl who was on her way to an Ivy League College. The world was her oyster.

But she chose to walk away from that opportunity to get with 20-year-old Jaquan “Jay Cash” Layne and join up with the “137th Street Crew” as a gun moll. Miseducated by the gang about the "realness of the streets", she probably thought it was cool to carry his gun in her purse and exciting to watch him get over on the cops with a smug smile when they found nothing on him. She also probably thought it was fun when he spent money on her buying her stuff like sneakers, clothes, and jewelry with his drug loot. Even though she was scared when he proposed it she probably thought it more exciting for her to make her own money selling crack rocks on the Deerfield campus. And when he talked about taking head shots only to her on the phone it was like something out of a movie like Scarface or a street lit novel.

Unfortunately real life isn’t like those street lit novels where the slippery heroines get away with their crimes. When the members of the 137th Street Crew were busted last week, Afrika wound up in Rikers Island and another story of a promising sista wound up with a with a tragic ending I know all too well.

I’ve run into a dozen Afrika Owes her during my time as a student in at Park West and Taft High school back in the late 1980s and early 1990s at the height of the Crack Epidemic. I even knew a few personally back then. Like Afrika, many of those sistas were pretty, smart and had a lot of potential. But when they wanted to have a boyfriend they didn’t want the brotha with the part-time job or the allowance he got from his parents. No, those guys were “soft, boring, and immature.”

Instead, they wanted to get with the older dudes who wore the gold chains and drove around in the fly rides like a Jeep, a BMW, or a Benz. The ones with enough money to buy them leather coats, gold chains, clothes from The Gap, Gucci bags, sneakers, and Timberland boots. The neighborhood drug dealer. The gang banger. The Thug. The guys who slung rocks on the corner and carried a nine, a blade, or a boxcutter. When other girls saw him on her arm or riding shotgun in his car with the booming speakers they got jealous.

Until tragedy struck and that poor deluded sista wound up another statistic.

Afrika Owes should count her blessings. She should thank God she just wound up in Rikers. Because she was truly lucky she got busted so young. At 17 she still has an opportunity to turn her life around. She can get her diploma, work towards her degree, and have a life after prison. There’s still a chance for her to have a happy ending.

Many of the sistas I used to know like her in Park West and Taft who had the drug dealer boyfriends back in the day probably weren’t as blessed as she is. Most probably suffered a series of tragic fates worse than anything Afrika will ever experience.

Some of the luckier ones probably wound up in prison doing time for his crimes because they followed the nonsensical codes of the street preached by fools like 50 Cent that state a woman has to take the fall for her man when he’s busted. But the truth is more like: He made a deal with the District Attorney and implicated her so he could avoid the mandatory minimum sentence. So SHE winds up having to do 20 years in a lockup for riding shotgun in his car while he continues running his game on the streets with another woman.

Many more of those sistas I went to school with probably wound up having babies by these thugs and drug dealers and now have no way to support them except welfare and food stamps. Why? Because most of the fathers are doing 25-to-life mandatory minimums in a Federal lockup like Leavenworth or 20 years in a state penitentiary like Sing Sing. And many more of those fathers were killed in drug deals gone bad or by a rival gangs over a beef. Others are running the streets and could care less about the children they abandoned.

And quite a few of those unfortunate sistas wound up alone as they became addicted to their boyfriend’s product. It was probably fun when he offered them a hit of weed in the staircase or at a house party. Over the years they probably got into harder drugs like crack, heroin, cocaine, and crystal meth. As a sista’s habit became an addiction that destroyed all her promise, potential and good looks, he moved on to the next ho, because that’s the code of the street.

And another handful of sistas wound up taking bullets meant for him. Those poor sistas were caught in the crossfire of drive-by-shootings or walked into ambushes from rival drug gangs where they got shot in the head or got their throats cut in an attempt to send a message to him. Meanwhile, he moves on to the next ho, cause that’s the code of the street.

And finally there are the sistas no one talks about, the ones killed by their thug boyfriends in domestic violence incidents. One of the tragic ironies many sistas encounter by getting involved with violent thugs and drug dealers for protection is that there’s no one there to protect them from his violence. Sooner or later they become a victim of his fists, his guns, and his rage. And when they leave him, usually it’s in a body bag.

Afrika Owes could have been a victim of one of those tragic fates like many of the sistas I went to high school with back in the day. However, I think God stepped in just in time to save her life. Even though she’s in Rikers right now, she still has a chance for Him to use her for His purpose. From here on in it’ll be up to her to make the choice to either turn it around, or continue down a road to self-destruction.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Black Men in Dresses: Entertainment or Emasculation?

This year there will be three movies released featuring five African American men in dresses this year. Big Mamas: Like Father like Son, Skank Robbers and Tyler Perry’s Madea’s big happy Family. I have to wonder: Is this entertainment or Emasculation?

Many may see these images of brothers in dresses as something humorous. However, I see an insidious conspiracy by the media to strip away the manhood and male identity from the Black Man. Over the past two decades, the image of the black male has been slowly feminized. Little things like Athletes wearing earrings, Hip-hop stars wearing braids and sagging pants may be presented in the media to look trendy and stylish, but I feel it’s part of an effort to effeminate the Black male identity.

When a Black male is presented onscreen in a dress or with feminine attributes it sends a message to the world. That message is he is weak, soft and can he can be broken and subjugated to a submissive position. It destroys the image of Black Male authority and power in the eyes of Black women and causes the Black Man to lose face in front of her and his children.

And when Hollywood presents three movies featuring Five Black men in dresses I feel it’s sending a CLEAR message to the Black Community: It does not see Black men as MEN. They see black men as their BITCH, a castrated asexual role where they are weak, docile and submitted to their will. It’s less than a man, less than a woman and less than a child. It’s a Joke.

The way Black men are represented today in the media is the most dangerous thing since Wille Lynch’s speech on how to make a slave.

What’s so dangerous about so many movies featuring Black men in dresses? The messages within these films have a subconscious impact on the psychology of how Black men and Black boys are conditioned to see themselves in society. Presenting so many images of African-American men in effeminate roles is part of an institutionally racist plan to humiliate and degrade the image of the Black man in society. And because most young black males don’t have their fathers in their lives they have no idea what an example of manhood truly is. So they think these images are what they should emulate as Black male behavior and their Black male identity.

Worse, young brothers who don’t know any better they incorporate this feminine behavior into their own behaviors. Because the media presents these effeminate images as socially acceptable and even trendy brothers have no idea that their gender identity is being corrupted. Imbibing this media for long periods of time can leave a black male confused to their sexual identity.

I notice that currently in mainstream White media there are no images of White Males in dresses on a regular basis. I mean, how many top White movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale are starring in movies where they’re wearing dresses these days? How many top white male athletes and entertainers have their hair done up in braids with ribbons and bows? How many white male athletes and entertainers are presented in the media are dressed in feminine colors or presenting effeminate body language or expressions on a regular basis?

Not that many. But Black men are presented this way on a regular basis nowadays.

I’m urging brothers and sisters to really take a look at the media they’re watching a bit more closely. It’s not just entertainment. The media we watch and listen to influences the way we think and the way we act. It models of what someone else in society wants us to act like. And someone wants to destroy the image of the Black man in America in the eyes of the world.

Putting so many Black men in dresses can't be  entertainment. It’s emasculation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Black Church Needs A Revival

The Church used to be the cornerstone of the Black community. Once considered a moral center for Black American and the social hub for African-Americans, it was the backbone of Black America during slavery and emancipation, a shelter in the time of storm during Jim Crow, and the heart and soul of the Civil Rights Movement. But after the post-Civil rights period, The Black Church feels lost its direction. As a result of this the community has become more and more disconnected from its relationship with God, and brothers and sisters have become disconnected from themselves.

In a community with a 80 percent unemployment rate, 70 percent dropout rate and 60 percent abortion rate, it’s clear that the traditional Black Church is out of touch with the needs of the community, which is why so many brothers and sisters are abandoning Christianity in the African-American community. From what I’ve experienced with the Black Church, I feel it’s their outdated approach to Christianity that’s repulsing people. The “old time religion” of our forefathers doesn’t focus on the needs of helping brothers and sisters today develop a close, strong personal relationship with God in the 21st Century.

Here’s a few suggestions for improving The Black Church experience:

Cut service down to 45 minutes or an hour. Let’s face it Black Church is just TOO LONG. Most services in the Black community clock in at a minimum of 2 hours, while some go on to as long as 3 or four hours, and some go on for five hours! In the past Slaves would spend half a Sunday or a whole Sunday in Church but in today’s world that’s just not feasible. A well-organized service to me should take no longer than 45 minutes to an hour. If the Muslims, Catholics, and White Christians can preach their message to their followers in an hour, why can’t The Black Church?

Focus teaching not preaching. The Black Church is full of emotion and drama, and spectacle. After the Choir sings and then the Pastor gives a raucous performance in the pulpit. People come out The Black Church feeling good on Sunday morning, but wind up participating on the same sinful behaviors on Sunday afternoon. Why? Because they’ve been entertained, not because they’ve received information that helps them develops a closer relationship with God. I feel Church is supposed to be a place where Christians can learn things that help them grow in their relationship with Christ. Teaching to me helps people learn how to apply the Word of God in their lives every day, not just Sunday.

Focus more on Action Oriented Christianity. For me, Christianity is about doing, not hearing. Actions define a Christian’s character more than words to non-Christians. It’s the example we show through what we do that influences others and has an impact on their lives. To me, a good Church service on Sunday focuses on teaching people things they can do to apply the message of Christ in their lives in the community Monday through Saturday.

Make the House of God more open to everyone. When Jesus came, he sat with the Publicans, Tax Collectors, and Harlots. He encouraged people to come as they were. However in the Black Church members are often judgmental and rude towards newcomers. I feel more welcome at a bodega in the ghetto than in most Black Churches in the same neighborhoods, and that shouldn’t be. Church should be a place where everyone feels welcome to hear the Word. In some churches there are rigid outmoded standards for how long skirts are, whether or not shoes should have open toes (scandalous!) or slingbacks (enticing to men!) or what color stocking a woman can wear to attend service. Other Churches throw people out for having sex, being homosexual, having tattoos, or having jobs in fields the Church doesn’t find “respectable”. Hey, aren’t these the people the Church is supposed to be reaching? Didn’t Jesus try show people an example? Isn’t the mission of Church about saving souls? To me these kinds of actions are counterproductive and discourage those who desperately need to hear of the Word of God from receiving God’s message.

Stop Judging people. We’re all not perfect and we’ve all come short in the eyes of God. Our righteousness is like a filthy rag to him. But Most of my fellow Black Christians I’ve run into in the Church are extremely arrogant towards people who aren’t Christians or who don’t agree with what they’re saying. I’ve seen Christians put down, insult people and condescend to people instead of showing them an example of what Christ is like. What they don’t know is that their actions defeated their testimony. Christianity to me is about showing people an example of Christ, not telling. Action speaks louder than words.

Make Church an everyday thing not a Sunday thing. For most in the Black community Church service is on Sunday Mornings. To me Christianity is a 24-hour a day 365 day a year thing. I feel Church is a place that should be open every day with services during the weekday afternoons and weekday evenings. Sure a lot of people are working at those times, but there are others who can’t make a Sunday Schedule. I feel if The Black Church were more accessible every day like the Catholic Church and the Islamic mosque are, more people would be open to it.

Make After Church services more comprehensive. To me Church is not just about a sermon on Sunday. And developing a close personal relationship with God requires support once the sermon is over. With all the problems facing the Black community, there needs to be a focus on more after Church services. Things like counseling, networking, and financial help. At one time the first place people could go for help in the Black community was the Church. Nowadays it’s the first place to turn people away. The Church needs to go back to being the place everyone in Black Community goes first.

Focus on messages that can be applied to real life. A relationship with God is not something Church to me should be about teaching people things they can use Monday through Saturday. I’d like to see more messages focused on things people can use in their real life, not entertainment.

Discuss topics once considered off limits. Issues like AIDS, HIV, abortion, and sex are avoided by the Black out of shame and fear. Meanwhile, the community continues to suffer from these problems. The Church has to take a more active role in teaching how to apply the Word of God tin their lives towards these issues.

Focus a series of services to deal with the issues of Black Men. It’s a fact that a majority of Black men do not go to church. Why? Because they feel the church has left them out. The Black Church has become so woman centered these days that it rarely focuses on the issues of men in the black community. As a result, many young men are growing up spiritually lost and disconnected from God. I’ve heard from many brothers who say they feel emasculated in Church and that there’s no place for them there. Many more feel threatened by pastors in their homes when their women come back from service. Church should be a place that brings people together, not splits them apart.

I’d like to see the Black Church focus on making an effort to reconnecting with Black Men. I’d like to see efforts focused towards teaching services that are man centered so Black men can feel more comfortable in Church. I feel Brothers need to sit down with local pastors and air their grievances and discuss their issues with them. I feel once brothers start having a dialogue with they’ll be a bit more eager to pursue a relationship with God.

Embrace Technology as a way to get the Word of God to listeners. As part of teaching people how to apply the Word of God in their lives every day. Most Black Churches who are on the air are still on the radio- AM radio. Those who are a bit more technologically advanced are making CDs. In an age where there’s internet radio, podcasts and mp3s the Black Church is way behind the rest of the world in getting its message to potential followers. The Black Church really has to start making efforts towards reaching brothers and sisters on the web.

If were a minister and I ran a Church, I’d pretty much implement all these points I’m writing about. Personally I feel focusing on a more action oriented, everyday approach to Christianity would improve the quality of life in the Black community and improve its relationship with God. I really want to see the Black Church overcome its issues and reconnect with the lost sheep of the Black community to a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Francine Craft's Review of The Temptation of John Haynes

Author Francine Craft was nice enough to provide an early review of The Temptation of John Haynes. I thought I'd share it with everyone.

I thought this was a winner from the time Shawn talked about writing in on his Blogspot blog. I waited patiently and I love the book he came up with.
John Haynes is the prototype for a guy we all want as son, friend, husband, lover; he has it all together and he isn't a bit arrogant about it. He's good with a capital "G." Now we all know about Lucifer and how he feels about goodness; he doesn't go for it, so he hates the likable John and decides to have a little, no a lot of fun bringing this good man down to his level. Enter Lucifer's beautiful, sexy hostage aptly named Esteem. Who best to enchant and bring John down? And enchant Ms. Esteem does with abandon. She has and uses all the wiles, all the tricks that a glamorous, powerful woman backed by the devil has in store. And what's this? She's winning poor John's heart; he's just about putty in her lovely hands. But there is a Heaven and the angels decree that Esteem does have a heart of her own and she finds to her dismay that her heart is flipping crazily for this good man.

Hell no, Lucifer doesn't like it, but what can he do about it? Who wins? Who loses? Read for yourself and see. I can only promise you'll smile a lot as you flip the pages of this winner:)
And hm-m-m, doesn't the name John Haynes sound a lot like Shawn James to you? Well, I guess a writer needs a lot of ego to ply his or her trade. I look forward to many more books by this fine young writer.

My slogan for this book is: Buy and read The Temptation of John Haynes! You'll love it!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Art Imitating life or Life imitating art?

eeeriely similar how fiction imitates real life. Or how real life imitates fiction.
W magaazine cover used for reference purposes.
   I drew the All About Marilyn cover way way back in October 2008 (concept in 2007). It was published in December of 2009.

W Magazine photographed this cover of Kim Kardashian for its magazine around 2010 and published it in November of 2010.

Both feature nude women.
Both were done for artistic purposes.
Both feature red censor bars over the model's private areas with white letters.
All About is the title of both photos and in the theme of the story of the pictures.
And both pictures have been photoshopped within an inch of their lives.

The cover with Kim Kardashian was for W magazine's art issue.

I was being artistic with Marilyn's abstract cover.

eeeeeerie coincidence.

Sure there are differences like the placement of the figure in the photo, the gray background, the race of the models,  and the font of the letters, but it's kind of an eeeerie coincidence how art imitates life. 
Who knows?
Kim feels embarrassed by this photo. She feels it's porn.
I was always proud of Marilyn's cover. I know it's art.

I also feel proud knowing that the cover I drew  for one of my self-published books is actually viable in a commercial marketplace. 

Perhaps I have more talent than I think.
Or W magazine is stooping to the lowest common denominator for sales.

I don't read W magazine, but I do know talent.

And both are great covers.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Disturbingly High Rates of Abortion Among African-American Women

Last year Black women had more abortions in New York City than any other ethnic group. Out of 87,273 pregnancies that were aborted last year in New York City, 40,798 were performed on African-American women.

In the borough where I live, The Bronx 60 percent of African-American women ended their pregnancies with an abortion.

In fact, over the past decade Black women have the highest abortion rates in the United States. And Black women are five times more likely to have an abortion than White women.

In the wake of these disturbing statistics I have to wonder: Do brothers and sistas know about their birth control options? Do they know how to use methods of birth control to prevent a pregnancy? Do they know about other ways to express affection towards each other during intimacy outside of sex? Do they know about their bodies? Do they have enough information to make the right choices before they have sex?

I’m going to have to say no.

Personally, I think the high percentage of abortion among black women is due to the historically negative perception of sex and sexuality in the African-American community. Stereotypes such as the Black Buck and the Jezebel and the radical Black Christian Church preaching vehemently against sexual expression have created a culturally negative perception of sex in the black community that’s been passed down from generation to generation. Even today discussing sex and sexual health issues in the African-American community is still considered taboo among many brothers and sisters.

As a result of this cultural conditioning, many brothers and sisters feel ashamed about discussing sex, sexual responsibility, and their options for birth control. And due to this shame, many brothers and sisters never get a proper sexual education so they can understand how their bodies function. This shame forces brothers and sisters pick up what they learn about sex from the streets. And on the streets is where brothers and sistas learn lies and misconceptions about sex.

For generations in the Black community rumors, innuendo and old wives tales have created a perception that Black women are sex objects, sex is something that just happens, and pregnancy is the result of fucking. Worse, it’s created the myth that the easiest way for a black woman to end her pregnancy is through an abortion. It’s a shame so many young brothers and sisters still don’t know about their options for birth control or ways to prevent a pregnancy from happening.

To combat the high abortion rates among African-American families, I feel the Black community needs to overcome its shame and have an open and honest discussion about sex, sexuality and sexual health. Brothers and Sistas today need to understand the easiest way to prevent a pregnancy is by getting educated about their bodies before they have sex and to get educated about the numerous birth control options they have to choose from when they’re ready to have sex.

I feel a sixty percent abortion rate among black women shows how decades of shame within the black community is leading to an abuse of the abortion process. Because so many brothers and sistas have no idea how their bodies function sexually, they have no idea how to make choices that will lead to them having a better quality of life overall.

I believe if brothers and sistas were better educated about sex and knew about all the options they had to prevent pregnancy there would be fewer abortions in the black community. When people are educated about sex and their bodies they make better choices regarding how they act sexually. Good sex starts with open and honest communication, and I feel the African-American community really needs to start having a dialogue about sex.

I want to be part of the process of helping brothers and sistas getting better educated about sex so they can make choices that lead to a better quality of life. Brothers and Sistas who are interested in learning more about their bodies and how they function they can go to a site like, and where they can get a better understanding of their bodies and how they work before making the choice to become sexually active with others.

Sex is a beautiful thing. I feel it’s how two people who love each other express their feelings for each other in a connection of mind, body and spirit. It’s part of the natural biological function in the reproductive process. Sex is nothing to be ashamed of; when people are educated about sex they have a better quality of life and more satisfying sexual relationships. I wish more brothers and sisters would overcome their shame and fear and have an open and honest dialogue about sex so they can make the right choices regarding sex in their lives.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Celebrate Black History with Golden Legacy Comics

When I was a kid growing up, we had Golden Legacy comics in school. These were comic books with stories that depicted famous African-Americans and detailed their accomplishments so younger readers could have an understanding of African-American history.

Historically, the series ends around the 1960’s-1970’s in Black history and I really wish the publishers would come out with new a new series detailing the accomplishments of recent black leaders and accomplishments. We really need volumes depicting the stories of:

The Black Panthers
 Malcolm X
Jesse Jackson
Michael Jackson
James Brown
Tina Turner
 Dihann Carroll
 Aretha Franklin
Muhammad Ali
Eddie Murphy
Spike Lee
Colin Powell
 Condelezza Rice
 Oprah Winfrey
Denzel Washington
Clarence Thomas
Whoopi Goldberg
Bill Cosby
Dr. Mae Jemison (first black astronaut)
The inventor of the Super Soaker watergun (Yes, he’s BLACK!)
Rap and Hip-hop (Gonna need two Volumes for this bad boy)
Tupac Shakur
Will Smith
Queen Latifah
Al Sharpton
Louis Farrakhan
 Nelson Mandela
Tiger Woods
 Michael Jordan
 Barack Obama

Golden Legacy comics are available from the publisher as separate comics or a collector’s hardback. Please tell the publisher you want a new series!

Man, I wish I had the money to hire talent; one of the things I’d love to publish is an updated series of Golden Legacy! These comics are an invaluable learning resource for young African-Americans, and I’d love to share the historical accomplishments of brothers and sisters with a new generation of readers. Maybe even make em’ interactive with a DVD-ROM!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

African-American Fantasy & Science Fiction books: Is there a Market For Them?

When it comes to African-American fiction, Black readers don’t have that many choices. Walk into any bookstore or peruse the titles of any vendor table and the selection is limited to Urban/Street Lit, Romance, Christian fiction, or Erotica. However in those same venues titles in genres like Science Fiction, Horror, and fantasy by African-American authors are almost nonexistent. I have to wonder: Is it because publishers don’t produce books in the genre? Or is it because of the lack of demand from African-American readers?

I really don’t think it’s a demand issue; brothers and sisters are always interested in fantasy titles like Isis when I present them at book fairs and book signings. From the responses I get on the street, I know there’s a market for African-American science fiction and fantasy titles. And I know there are lots of African-American sci-fi and fantasy fans; I see those brothers and sisters at the comicons and the toy shows. I know they want more material featuring African-American characters in the lead. And I want to provide it to them.

This year I’m publishing The Temptation of John Haynes so African-American readers can see that a supernatural story can feature African American characters. I want to provide brothers and sisters with their own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Twilight.

I feel science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories by African-Americans can have a huge impact on the lives of brothers and sisters. Science fiction and Fantasy stories encourage brothers and sisters to think “out of the box” and to imagine where they could be in the future instead of focusing on what’s around them right now. The inner-city is a world of limitations and boundaries governed by fear and oppression. Because so many brothers and sisters grow up having their realities dictated to them through a set of institutionally racist rules, they never learn how to use their imaginations to learn how create ways to overcome those barriers. And because brothers and sisters don’t learn how to use their imaginations they never think about who they could be in the future.

Long-term fantasy and Science fiction stories inspire people. They make people think. They give people ideas. Writers like Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry and Richard Matheson used the genre to make commentaries about the world we live in and how we can make it a better place. Many of the ideas in these stories inspired real-life devices such as the Internet, the PC, Cell phone, LCD and LED TVs, cloning, the ebook and e-mail.

As a child I’ve often wondered how African-Americans imagined the world in the future. Unfortunately every time I went to the bookstore or for comic books or sat in front of the TV to watch a fantasy/science fiction show it was a world imagined with mostly white faces.

I want African-American readers today to imagine their worlds in color.

I want brothers and sisters to imagine that it’s possible for characters that look like them to have fantastic adventures too. To see that it is capable for African-Americans to do amazing things. To see that they can live in a world without limits.

I want them to know for every Xena there’s an Isis.

For every Buffy, Twilight, Charmed, and Angel there’s a John Haynes.

One of my long-term goals as a publisher is to diversify the African-American book market and offer readers more choices. I want to walk into a bookstore one day and see books in categories like Fantasy, Science Fiction, and screenplays. My dream is to show brothers and sisters in the inner city that there’s a world outside of the ghetto and they can think beyond the borders of the block.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Temptation of John Haynes Chapter 3

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I sigh reading the through the chronicle of the gods for the one hundred billionth time. To my chagrin it reads the same as it did over a hundred years ago. I have no chance whatsoever of joining Lucifer’s Elect by killing a god.

I slam the book shut in disgust. Damn the laws of Hell! I couldn’t kill Isis and now I’ll never achieve my dream of becoming a Lady. If only I hadn’t underestimated the goddess all those years ago I wouldn’t be stuck in this purgatory. He says it’s the second most powerful position in Hell. I feel it’s a glorified dead-end secretarial job to keep me from being a threat to his political base. In his eyes I’m probably too dangerous to have roaming freely around the realms. So he piles up the mindless busy work to keep me occupied while he roams the Earth causing trouble for everyone else.

And the monotony of it has been keeping me quite busy. I only read those old family lineages to give myself a break from writing. I’ve been developing a wonderful case of carpal tunnel syndrome transcribing ancient texts by hand for the past six months. The same ancient texts he had me transcribe six months before. Except I wrote them using blue ink and not black ink and now I have to rewrite them all over because the words look wrong to him in the blue ink. Well, my job could be worse. He could hook this old musty library up to a computer network. Then I’d have to spend hours staring into a computer screen typing texts up. With my luck the software would probably prompt some error message after I keyed in the last letter of text and shut down. I think I’d lose my mind if I had to deal with that all the time.

I grimace looking up at the clock on the wall above me. Nine thirty. Three hours until lunch. I better finish transcribing this page before Lucifer returns. He’ll want to review my work and I’ll need to show him something-

Dammit, I’m not going have time to get back to work. The loud clop of the Lord’s expensive Italian leather shoes echo in the hallway as they pound into the old hardwood floors. He grins as he strolls into the library carrying a large leather bound book under his arm. It looks like I won’t be watching my soaps this afternoon.

I twirl my creaky old wooden chair around clockwise and stop it with my toe claws as he approaches my desk. I’m going to find out what color ink he wants these texts written in before I write a single word on paper.

“More texts for me to transcribe Lord?” I ask. “Do you want them in blue or black ink?”

“No E’steem, I have a much more important task to assign you.” Lucifer replies handing me the book.

The title on the cover reads The Life and Times of John Haynes. I don’t see publisher logo on the first page, just the portrait picture of a husky golden brown colored man wearing one of those flat-top-fade hairstyles and a green twill button-down shirt. From the looks of him he’s no one special. If I were on Earth I’d probably pass him by and not pay him any attention.

“Who is John Haynes?” I ask.

“Your assignment.” He spits.

“You sound like you don’t like him.”

“I despise him.”

“From the looks of him he’s not worth spending the time to even talk about. What’s he done to earn your ire?”

“E’steem don’t underestimate John. He’s extremely dangerous.”

“Then why don’t you just kill him?”

“He would die and be with his Lord.”

“He’d be out of your hair dead.”

“Death alone is not enough for this man.”

“If you don’t want him dead, what do you want done to him?”

“To kill a man like John is nothing.” Lucifer continues. “I’d merely have his life for a moment. To destroy someone like him, I must compromise him.”

“Compromise? How can compromise be worse than death?”

“Death only kills the flesh. Compromise kills the soul.”

Even when I was roaming the realms I never would have planned something as insidious as destroying a man’s eternal soul. This will be quite the challenge.

“I want John to betray the beliefs and ideals that are at the essence of himself.” Lucifer continues. “When I’ve made him betray his personal values, he will be at my feet begging for mercy. Then when I kill him, I won’t just have his life. I’ll have his soul for all eternity.”

“This poor soul doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort.” I dismiss.

“One soul this troublesome is worth all my best efforts. It would bring me the greatest pleasure knowing John Haynes is burning in Hell.”

“How do you propose I compromise this man?”

“I will bring him to you. When you are together, persuade him to lie with you. When the two of you become one, reveal your true self to him and I will kill him.”

I bristle at his request. “You want me to play the harlot?”

“He’s quite vulnerable. His lover has left him and he’s lost his job. In his confused frame of mind it would be very easy for a woman of your great pulchritude to charm him into your bed.”

“I don’t like using my body-”

“You are a demoness. Surely you’ve committed many acts of fornication in your lifetime.”

“Quite a few.”

Lucifer notices my uneasiness. He puts a hand on my shoulder to reassure me. I’m still uneasy.

“I’ve watched you come into this library every day and read that old book for over a hundred years.” Lucifer continues. “It’s a waste of your countless talents.”

“The law clearly states I have to kill a god-”

“I wrote the law. And I’m willing to waive it for you this one time. Destroy this man for me and I will allow you to join my Elect.”

“Y-You’ll make me a Lady?”

“His destruction is that important to me.”

The hatred Lucifer has for John Haynes must run incredibly deep. He’s so passionate about destroying this one man’s soul he’s willing to break his own laws and let me roam among Hell’s demons again. I can’t pass this opportunity up.

“What if I fail to compromise John?”

“You will never be allowed to return to my palace and reside with me again. You will spend the rest of your days walking to and fro the Earth.”

The stakes he’s setting are tremendously high, but the prize is definitely worth the risk. I’ll gamble my position for a chance at becoming the most powerful she-demon in All Hell.

“His soul will be yours Lord.”

Articles are back on Saturday!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Temptation of John Haynes Chapter 2

John bumping into me was no accident. I wanted to catch the disgusted look on his face when he left his office. His suffering just brings me so much joy.

With the first phase of my plan complete, I leave the busy streets of New York City by fading into a flash of light. Within moments I arrive back at the study of my secret palace buried deep underneath the tundra of the Arctic. I grab the biography of John’s life I had commissioned off the mahogany desk. E’steem should be able to easily read through this material in three months. She’ll be ready to participate in the second phase of the plan by then.

I peer down the hall into the doorway of the library to find my librarian sitting at the reference table in her tattered linen red dress. The tall voluptuous almond colored demoness runs her cloven fingernails through her long silky black hair in frustration. It’s a shame such a beautiful talented woman won’t let go of the past. She still skulks around my palace with a visage featuring canine teeth, yellow snake eyes, and pair of long black horns jutting out of her forehead. If she ever walked around the realms today with such a grotesque appearance, the other human faced demons would laugh her to scorn.

She seems preoccupied with her reading; she’s probably going through the family lineages of the gods again searching for that long lost child to kill in her fruitless quest to join my Elect. It saddens me to see that she still hasn’t learned anything from her humiliating defeat at the hands of the goddess Isis. During her hundred-twenty-five-year stay at my residence she could have pursued more productive political goals. However, she’s allowed her life to deteriorate into a pitiful existence of transcribing old texts, reading that book, eating, sleeping, and watching television. If she were human I would actually enjoy seeing her so pathetic. I wonder if she still has the faculties to match wits with a formidable foe like John Haynes.


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